Have You Got It Yet? makes you read between the lines a bit too often, but it’s a sufficiently detailed look at the story of Syd Barrett and Pink Floyd.
Have You Got It Yet? The Story of Syd Barrett and Pink Floyd is a documentary directed by Roddy Bogawa that tells … well, the story of Syd Barrett and Pink Floyd. The now-iconic progressive rock band formed in the 1960s with Barrett as its guitarist and vocalist, essentially the leader of the group. Though Barrett was seen as musically gifted and contributed majorly to the band’s psychedelic sound, he developed increasingly worse mental health conditions that caused him to be ousted from the band in its early years. With the help of narrator Jason Isaacs, interviews with band members and loved ones, and footage and photos throughout the years, Have You Got It Yet? attempts to dive deeper into who Barrett really was, how his health went downhill, and what became of him after his days in Pink Floyd.
I was interested in watching Have You Got It Yet? because, as a 27-year-old with the musical taste of a 50-year-old, Pink Floyd is one of my favorite bands. With that said, though, I don’t have an extensive knowledge of how they were formed and how Syd Barrett left the band, outside of the basics I’ve looked up. My hopes were that this documentary would fill in a lot of the gaps that I and many other people probably have in the story of one of rock music’s biggest shoulda-woulda-couldas. And it fills in … some gaps. I never watch a documentary thinking I’ll come out knowing every single detail of the subject matter. But there’s enough material and information here, from firsthand and secondhand sources and narrators, to paint the type of picture the documentary wants to paint of Barrett.
That picture is, as far as I could tell, that of someone who simply didn’t have it in him to live the rock star life that was needed to succeed in the business. We’re told about what Barrett was like during his school years, including how he loved so much different art that others couldn’t keep up, how outgoing and expressive he was, and most of all, the urge he seemingly had to explore that expression and channel it into something. It’s a classic case of someone who seems so on top of things mentally and socially, someone you wouldn’t expect to fall apart the way he did. Doesn’t that seem to always be how it goes?
The reason this is so important is because, from basically every account in Have You Got It Yet?, this energetic drive for creativity ends up combining negatively with two major factors that rose in Barrett’s early adult life: his career in Pink Floyd, and his use of acid. It’s not at all a secret that tons of musicians, especially in the 1960s, were heavily fueled by drugs that enhanced their creative processes, and Barrett is explicitly discussed to have been no exception. The footage of his performances when he’s clearly under the influence is really effective in showing how much of a high he’s on in the moment, but also the visual roots of the destabilization the drugs cause. It’s something you wouldn’t think twice about if you just watched him without that knowledge, but the footage becomes a lot eerier once you have the context.
So, imagine all of that energy and all of that unhinged drive to do something new, progressive, and unfettered … and imagine the person behind that suddenly being forced to adhere to schedules, traveling, and the tolls that would come from any signed and touring rock act. Imagine that person in the spotlight, under pressure to appeal to the masses and his superiors, or at least as many as he can. You can probably immediately guess how that’s going to go, and the documentary shows you and tells you about the unraveling that follows. I see Barrett as someone who had the talent and drive to make music that the rock industry seemed to be ready for. But he was not ready for the rock industry.
In all fairness, I’m connecting these dots somewhat on my own. We go into Barrett’s childhood, his entrance into the band, and his fall from grace, but the link between these phases of his life and why they fed into one another are not really illustrated. They’re touched upon, but I found myself reading between the lines a lot of the time. In a fictional story, that’s fine. In a documentary that’s meant to answer questions, not so much. Especially when Have You Got It Yet? repeatedly addresses how much the public’s perceptions of Barrett have differed from reality. In response to that, I can’t help but want to know as much of the reality as I can get.
But what stops Have You Got It Yet? from being just a glorified Wikipedia article is the level of detail each beat of the story being told gets on its own. The documentary gets a lot more photos and interviews backing its story up than I would have expected. I figured current and former Pink Floyd members like David Gilmour and Roger Waters would show up, or that a few key figures of Barrett’s personal life would be present, which they are. But the number of old friends, former girlfriends, managers, and leaders of other bands like Pete Townshend surprised me. They all have prominent appearances and give their own unique perspectives on what they saw of Syd Barrett. The stories they tell and the direct pictures and videos complimenting them, from Barrett’s increasing reclusiveness to his behavior onstage, are unsettling to hear and see. They, combined with the music of Barrett sprinkled in throughout the documentary, makes Have You Got It Yet? really feel like a trip back to the 60s and 70s.
What makes Have You Got It Yet? interesting as the story of a fallen rock star is that it’s not about some big, loud, explosive collapse. Barrett’s portrayed as going down in a much quieter, more subdued manner that wouldn’t be instantly obvious in a single glance. So much so that the band recounts how their decision to cut him out of shows literally came down to a simple, “Why bother?” on their way to one. Even Barrett’s life post-Pink Floyd isn’t shown as a heavily self-destructive spiral. He’s just a sad recluse who lives a normal life in slowly declining health. He’s almost shown to be a ghost, which makes one of the band’s shared memories with him feel particularly poignant.
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed with how impersonal the majority of Have You Got It Yet? is, even with all the details it contains. But I’m still satisfied as someone who loves Pink Floyd’s music and was interested in learning about the person who played a huge role in establishing what the band became. You can tell everyone involved genuinely cared for Barrett and wanted to respect him without sugarcoating anything, and smaller touchups like the many needle drops of “Shine on You Crazy Diamond,” which was dedicated to him, get enough heart across to have moved me somewhat. If you’re a fan of Pink Floyd, Syd Barret, or the type of music they played, and you want an insightful if not thorough dive into part of their history, I’d say you’ve got it here.
Have You Got It Yet? will have a limited theatrical release in the US on July 14 (NY) and July 21 (LA), with additional cities to be announced. The film was released in UK cinemas on May 15. Read our interview with director Roddy Bogawa!